Are eggs from your own chicken healthier or tastier?
The advantage of keeping your own chickens is that you regularly get an egg in return. Eggs from our own chickens are farm-fresh and very tasty. By ensuring good health of the hen and giving the chickens good food, you can keep the quality of the eggs optimal. Yet there are also disadvantages to eating the eggs from your own chickens. It turns out that the eggs can contain higher levels of dioxins and heavy metals. In addition, contamination with Salmonella in hobby chickens is more difficult to control.
Quality of eggs from our own chickens
Many hobby chicken keepers appreciate the taste of their own chickens’ eggs. By giving good food and taking care of good hygiene and health, one can also influence the taste of the eggs. Food with strong flavors such as onion, fish and garlic is better not to be given, while healthy varied food with vegetables rich in omega-3 fatty acids actually improves the quality of the eggs. Finally, supplementing with corn can provide a nice dark yolk.
If you have your own chickens, you have the option to eat the eggs fresh. Where the eggs from the supermarket are already at least a few days old, the eggs from our own hens can be eaten immediately after laying. These fresh eggs have a thick protein and a yolk that stays in place well. A fresh egg is therefore ideal to prepare as a fried egg because the yolk will break less quickly during preparation. Fresh eggs also often taste better and have a smoother, more pleasant texture. Anyone who likes tasty fresh eggs will certainly have an advantage in keeping laying hens. The disadvantage is that the eggs from your own chickens are often less good for health due to the higher levels of contamination and the greater risk of Salmonella contamination.
Chickens foraging in the garden pick up food from the ground. In the Netherlands, the soil is polluted and contains small amounts of dioxins. These dioxins are harmful to health and have carcinogenic properties. Because chickens ingest contaminated soil during foraging, the dioxins can end up in the chicken via the feed. The dioxins build up in the eggs, which means that low levels of dioxins in the soil can already lead to high levels of dioxins in the eggs. Research by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority shows that eggs from our own chickens contain a higher content of dioxins than eggs for sale in the supermarket. This may be due to the fact that hobby chickens run free more often and take more soil, while in the poultry industry the chickens come outside less and come into contact with soil less. The advice is therefore not to eat more than three eggs per week from your own hobby chickens.
In addition to dioxins, eggs from our own chickens can also contain more heavy metals, such as lead. Heavy metals enter the environment via polluted water, for example. Lead can come from gasoline or old water pipes made of lead. Long-term intake of heavy metals can lead to kidney problems, liver problems or damage to the brain. Children can be particularly sensitive to this because they have a lower weight. Chickens can ingest heavy metals because they eat soil when they eat from the ground. But vegetables they get can also be contaminated with heavy metals. Because hobby chickens come into more contact with contaminated soil, it is more likely that the eggs contain a higher content of heavy metals.
If eggs are not properly heated, there is a chance that they are contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria. Soft-boiled eggs or fried eggs, for example, can be a hazard. But products that contain raw eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise or bavarois, can also be contaminated with Salmonella. Laying hens are vaccinated against Salmonella to limit this risk. The laying hens are also closely monitored and eggs are randomly checked for Salmonella. These measures reduce the risk of contamination of the egg with Salmonella. These measures are generally not taken with hobby chickens. The chance that eggs from our own chickens are contaminated with Salmonella is therefore somewhat greater. However, there are measures that can be taken to limit the growth of Salmonella in the eggs. For example, the eggs can be collected daily and kept in the refrigerator. The date of the picking should be written on the egg so that one can keep an eye on how old the egg is. Finally, eggs from our own chickens can be eaten as fresh as possible, so that Salmonella does not have a chance to grow. For weaker people such as children, the elderly and pregnant women it is advisable to heat the eggs well, but this advice also applies to eggs that come from the store.
Tips for good eggs
In order to keep the quality of the eggs as good as possible, people who like to eat eggs from their own chickens can pay attention to a number of things.
Make sure that the chickens come into contact with contaminated soil as little as possible. Replace the soil in the run with clean sand or possibly grass.
Make sure that chickens are fed as little as possible from contaminated soil. Do not sprinkle food on contaminated soil, but offer it in clean containers. Pieces of vegetables can be hung.
Make sure the chickens have plenty of room. This reduces the chance that they transmit diseases to each other. Preferably count on a minimum of four square meters of run per chicken and one square meter of night house per three chickens.
Collect the eggs daily and keep them in the refrigerator. Eat the eggs as fresh as possible and do not store them for longer than three weeks. To prevent flavor transfer, do not store the eggs next to strong smelling products such as onions.